Age case: Lockheed must pay $51M to laid-off Penn Valley engineer

An eight-person federal jury in Camden late Thursday awarded $51.56 million to Robert Braden, a Penn Valley engineer, determining that his employer, Lockheed Martin Corp., violated a New Jersey law preventing discrimination against older workers.

After a four-day trial before Judge Renee Marie Bumb, the jury unanimously awarded Braden $520,000 in economic losses, another $520,000 for "willful" action against the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, yet another $520,000 for pain and suffering, and $50 million in punitive damages under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, according to Rahul Munshi of Console Mattiacci Law LLC, one of Braden's lawyers.

In a statement, Console Mattiaci called the award "one of the largest ever obtained by an individual plaintiff in an age discrimination case."  Lockheed's lawyers in New York and Newark, N.J., and its representatives at its headquarters in Bethesda, Md., did not return calls seeking comment. 

Braden joined what was then Radio Corp. of America in 1984 at its facility on Borton Landing Road in Moorestown, including a complex known locally as the "cruiser in a cornfield" for its resemblance to part of a warship.

According to the lawsuit Braden filed against Lockheed two years ago, Braden was terminated in 2012 during a round of layoffs at the multinational defense contractor, which employs 126,000 worldwide designing and building F-35 jet fighters and many other products. He was 66.

In his complaint, Braden said that he was the oldest of six engineers in Lockheed's Electronic Systems-Mission Systems and Sensors unit, that his title was project specialist, senior staff, and that he was the only one let go in that round of layoffs.

He said that he was given no specific reason for his termination and that his job performance had been "excellent."

In its initial reply to the lawsuit, Lockheed Martin denied wrongdoing and said Braden had not been singled out for his age. At that time, the company did not give another reason for letting Braden go.  

Braden also said in his complaint that five of 110 Lockheed Martin workers in his job classification "were terminated as part of the layoffs. All five were over the age of 50." Of 12 workers in a class of lower-level positions who also lost their jobs, eight were over 50. 

Braden added that he had been paid less than younger colleagues, and that company officials had said in his presence that "older workers have nowhere else to go" and could be treated worse than younger employees, who were more likely to quit.